Post-Apocalyptic action always makes for a great double feature at the drive-in. Where else do you feel more at ease watching the sudden entropy of society than inside the safe confines of your car with a tinny speaker hanging off your window? If you get a little scared, you can always hit the auto-lock to keep the creeping fear of wasteland warriors from the backseat. Deathsport/Battle Truck: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature brings together two visions of life after the apocalypse from opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.
Deathsport is David Carradine’s return to a future dystopia after Death Race 2000. This time it’s two wheeled menaces that zip across the screen causing heads to roll. After an off screen war, American society has been reduced to primitive folks living in the mountains and science freaks in a technological wonderland that’s barbaric at its core. Carradine and Claudia Jennings (Gator Bait) are taken as prisoners by the science freaks led by Richard Lynch (The Sword and the Sorcerer). He forces the duo, along with others, into a gladiator competition that involves rayguns and motorcycles. Naturally Carradine and Claudia come out not only as winners, but escape the arena in motorcycles. The chase is on. Deathsport isn’t nearly the well-oiled machine as Death Race 2000. The story is a bit of a mess, but it’s an interesting mess.
Battle Truck looks like Roger Corman’s quickie answer to Road Warrior. Both films are about a people in a wasteland fighting over gasoline. But in a strange quirk of fate Road Warrior was being shot in Australia with Mel Gibson at the same time Harley Cokeliss directed Battle Truck in New Zealand. This was a case of Zeitgeist instead of Corman Cash-in. After the apocalypse, a gang of hoodlums ride around the wasteland in an armed 18 wheeler. They rob shipments, steal oil and pillage farming villages. The only hope for the peaceful folks arrives as a loner on a motorcycle (The Warriors‘ Michael Beck). He gets help from John Ratzenberger (Cliff on Cheers). The rebellion leads to metal carnage. The film looks great thanks to two time Oscar winning cinematographer Chris Menges (The Killing Fields and The Mission). The boom operator was Lee Tamahori (director of Die Another Day). Most of the crew appears to have worked on Lord of the Rings. Their craftsmanship shines upon the wreckage they recreate. Battle Truck finally gets a chance to shine as this DVD.
The video for Deathsport is 1.78:1 anamorphic and Battle Truck is 1.33:1 full frame. There is an odd video issue with Deathsport. A bulk of the transfer is taken from the PG version of the film so it looks clean. The R-rated segments were reclaimed from a print that has platter scratches. Yet somehow the green scratches feel like part of the cheap optical effects. Battle Truck looks good throughout with the muted dystopia hues. Audio on both films is mono. The levels are fine.
Deathsport Commentary with Allan Arkush and editor Larry Bock lets the duo explain what just went so weird on this film. They don’t pull punches.
Battle Truck Commentary with director Harley Cokliss with moderator Jonathan Rigby. Harley explains how he started this film after working as Assistant Director on Empire Strikes Back. This is where he met Ratzenberger.
Deathsport Radio Spot (1:00) gets your car revved up.
Deathsport TV Spot (0:40) almost makes sense.
Death Sport Trailer (1:13) gets you pumped up to see Carradine on two-wheels.
Deathsport Still Gallery contains dozens of image from the two wheeled mayhem.
Battle Truck Still Gallery has about a dozen images from the international campaigns.
Deathsport/Battle Truck: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature brings together two fun visions of a bleak future. Deathsport lets David Carradine to dip back into the wheeled mayhem genre. He looks good on the killer motorcycle while zapping the techno freaks. Battle Truck barrels around as an efficient wasteland thrill machine. This is a double feature that should be viewed on a DVD screen in the backseat of a mini-van.
Shout! Factory presents Deathsport/Battle Truck: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Double Feature. Starring: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Michael Beck and John Ratzenberger. Running Time: 173 minutes. Released on DVD: August 3, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.